King’s Theatre: Mon 5 – Sat 10 Oct 2015
Review by Susan Lowes
Cast in the shadows of the Shank, Bill Kenwright breathes life into a new stage production of the Stephen King short story and iconic 1994 film, The Shawshank Redemption.
And yet, as it tours to the King’s for a week-long stay, this show doesn’t seems to be able to crawl out of the shadows of its big screen predecessor.
Set within the confines of Shawshank prison, Red, an old prisoner on the brink of institutionalisation, played by Patrick Robinson, tells the story of Andy Dufresne. Andy (Ian Kelsey) has been dealt a double life sentence for murdering his wife and her lover. But, everyone is innocent in Shawshank, aren’t they?
The story is one of betrayal, desperation and injustice – both within and without the prison walls. Director, David Esbjornson goes to great lengths to try to encapsulate the horrors of the inner belly of the Shank using light and sound effects for maximum impact. And yet, the momentum from the shocking moments – including brutality, violence and gang rape – are all too soon forgotten by both the characters on stage and the audience.
Fear will hold you prisoner and hope can set you free. That’s true, if of course the production can set the right tone. However the overarching atmosphere on stage ends up a touch too light and airy. There’s too much space in this prison. It feels too free – the desperation isn’t cloying and the menace a little too caricatured.
Without an effective layer of threat, the friendship and the hope that should shine through, seem a little lacklustre. It isn’t helped by sometimes awkward, sometimes rigid and sometimes rushed performances from the cast.
One thing for certain, however, is that Patrick Robinson is a stellar choice to fill Morgan Freeman’s shoes as Red. He’s cheeky, expressive and just the right side of humble to be charming. Meanwhile Ian Kelsey puts up a valiant effort as Andy, but he doesn’t seem to have been given enough to work with in this adaptation, leaving the character’s simple pleasures and nuances just under the surface.
Owen O’Neill and Joe Reisig give convincing performances as the morally ambiguous Warden Stammas and sadistic Guard Hadley. George Evans as young Tommy Williams will also bring a wee tear to your eye.
Overall, this new touring production delivers a good evening of theatre. It’s a retelling of a classic film, that many will know and love. However it does leave a sense that with a little bit of tweaking – and perhaps a few fewer set changes accompanied by jovial music – it could be great.
However, as the story comes to an end, it turns and smiles at you like an old friend waiting to greet you at the shore. Trying to shoehorn a movie ending onto the stage in the theatre might be a little cheesy, but that moment is, after all, the reason you came.
Running time 2 hours 15 mins including interval
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ
Monday 5 – Saturday 10 October 2015
Evenings 7:30pm; Matinees Wed and Sat 2:30pm
Details and tickets from: http://www.edtheatres.com/shawshankredemption
The Shawshank Redemption on tour:
0131 529 6000
His Majesty’s Theatre
01603 63 00 00
0844 871 7645
Milton Kenyes Theatre
0844 871 7652
029 2087 8889